The Obama administration announced Friday a new round of executive actions designed to increase trade and travel with Cuba, including eliminating the restriction on the Cuba’s famed rum and cigars. The new measures, which go into effect Monday, Oct. 17, are yet another effort of President Obama’s to increasingly and irreversibly improve U.S. relations with the communist-ruled island before he leaves office in January.
The new rules—the latest in a series of new changes since the two former Cold War foes began normalizing relations in December 2014—will now allow export to Cuba of some U.S. consumer goods sold online and let U.S. firms improve Cuban infrastructure for humanitarian purposes, according to a statement by the U.S. Treasury and Commerce Departments.
Along with the new changes is a lift on the amount of Cuban rum and cigars U.S. travelers can bring home for personal use. Until now, there has been a set $100 limit on Cuban rum and cigars that American travelers can bring back to the U.S. due to a trade embargo on the country’s goods set by Congress over five decades ago.
Under the new rules however, American travelers can purchase unlimited quantities Cuban rum and cigars and in any country around the world where they are sold, as long as they are for personal consumption. The Cuban goods will now also be subject to the same taxes and duties as alcohol and tobacco from other countries.
Besides delighting rum and cigar-loving travelers, Obama shared his belief that ending the ban will further strengthen ties with Cuba.
Obama explained in a statement that “Challenges remain – and very real differences between our governments persist on issues of democracy and human rights – but I believe that engagement is the best way to address those differences and make progress on behalf of our interests and values.”
High-end Cuban cigars can sell for over $100 each outside of Cuba, so eliminating this $100 travel limit is huge.
Last year alone, over 160,000 Americans visited Cuba, a figure that is expected to double this year, potentially generating hundreds of millions of dollars in new annual revenue for the Cuban state.
Other changes announced on Friday include allowing allowing Cuban pharmaceutical companies to apply for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. American companies can now also provide safety-related services for commercial aircraft in Cuba, where U.S. airlines are have recently begun scheduling regular flights between the two countries.
Finally, in a further effort to ease U.S. trade with Cuba, there as been a lift of the limits for cargo ship travel between the U.S. and Cuba. Cargo ships will now be allowed to visit U.S. ports directly after docking in Cuba, whereas before they were forced to wait 180 days. Cuba claimed the 180-day-long wait harmed its ability to successfully import and export.